The Australian Academy of Science has awarded the 2015 Selby Fellowship for excellence in science to Ray Jayawardhana, dean of the Faculty of Science and Professor of Physics & Astronomy at York University in Canada.
The Selby Fellowship is awarded annually to a distinguished overseas scientist to visit Australia to interact with researchers and to deliver a series of public lectures across the country. Fellows are expected to increase public awareness of science and scientific issues and accordingly will be outstanding lecturers to the general public.
Jayawardhana’s tour will include stops in Perth, Port Hedland, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. The titles of his public lectures are “Strange New Worlds: The Quest for Alien Planets and Life Beyond” and “Neutrino Hunters: Chasing a Ghostly Particle to Unlock Cosmic Secrets.” Both lecture topics relate to the popular science books he has authored.
In his lecture titled, “Strange New Worlds: The Quest for Alien Planets and Life Beyond,” Jayawardhana will discuss the search for planets outside our planetary system. Over the past two decades, astronomers have found thousands of planets circling other stars, revealing a remarkable diversity of worlds, from hot Jupiters in star-hugging orbits to near-twins of the Earth that could harbor liquid water. These discoveries have challenged our preconceptions many times over.
“Neutrino Hunters: Chasing a Ghostly Particle to Unlock Cosmic Secrets,” which is based on Jayawardhana’s most recent book, explores the power of neutrinos, which may hold the secret to why antimatter is so rare. Jayawardhana will explore how mighty stars explode as supernovae, what the universe was like just seconds after the big bang and even the inner workings of Earth.
Jayawardhana is a renowned astrophysicist, award-winning science writer and a popular public speaker. A graduate of Yale and Harvard, he uses world’s largest telescopes to explore planetary origins and diversity. Co-author of more than 110 scientific papers, his findings have made headlines worldwide, including in The Economist, Washington Post, New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald and BBC. He has received numerous accolades such as the Guggenheim Fellowship, Steacie Prize and Rutherford Medal.
His writing has appeared in The Economist, New York Times, Boston Globe, Scientific American and elsewhere. His book Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life Beyond Our Solar System (2011) was the basis of “The Planet Hunters’ on CBC television. His latest book Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe (2013) won the Canadian Science Writers Association Science in Society Award.
His research interests and contributions span a wide range of topics, including extrasolar planets, brown dwarfs, and star formation.
The Australian Academy of Science champions Australian scientific excellence, promotes and disseminates scientific knowledge, and provides independent scientific advice for the benefit of Australia and the world.